It´s been a difficult couple of year. But things are different now. The economy is looking up, shows are getting more attendees, and exhibitors are reporting increasing numbers of interested prospects visiting their trade show stands.

This resurgence may have you itching to get back into trade shows and to get face–to–face with hundreds of prospects. And since those prospects are also getting their budgets unfrozen, they´re eager to meet you, too.

Before you jump back in, don´t just dust off your 2009/2010 plan! So much has happened since then – to your customers, in your company, your trade shows, your industry, and the economy. Instead, get a clean sheet of paper, grab a pencil, and consider these 6 points:

1. Revise Your Marketing Objectives

Check to see if the marketing objectives that drove your old trade show program are still appropriate. Are your marketing goals now focused on retaining clients, or were your existing clients so hurt by the downturn that you´re targeting new customers now? Do you have to build distribution or increase awareness in a stronger market you´re now expanding into?

A lot of things have changed, take the time to review your goals for exhibiting, so you can adjust the rest of your trade show program and ensure 2011 is a success.

2. Revamp Your Trade Show Selection

While adjusting to the downturn, your company may have remade itself. It could have retreated to its core market, or shifted its resources to focus on the stronger remaining markets. Thus, some shows on your old schedule are unnecessary and perhaps some new shows should be sought out. Plus, the downturn affected show organisers unequally. You need to determine which shows are still strong and have the resources to invest in bringing in and engaging attendees. Also consider which shows you will choose if your budget is only partially restored.

3. Reshape Your Budget

Is your trade show budget completely restored, or only partially? If you get it all back, you may wish to adjust how it´s spent based on revised show selection, the booth sizes needed to meet your revised objectives, how beat–up or off–message your current trade show exhibit is, and how you´ll invest in promotions in this new era of social media. And while you may be asked to bring fewer booth staff, remember that you simply can´t take as many leads without an adequate team to take them.

4. Reinvigorate Your Booth Design

Based on your updated marketing objectives, recalibrated show selection and revised budget, you may need to change your booth´s size, its marketing message, and even its shape. Pulling your old trade show display off the shelf may be counter–productive. It might be time to look at getting a new trade show booth that represents the new company you have evolved into.

5. Rebuild Your Trade Show Team

Take a look at the desks around yours. Is your original trade show team still intact? You might need to consider an internal recruiting mission to rebuild your team. Your best bet? Ask your remaining ace veterans who they´d choose. They´ll know the like–minded candidates who have the right attitude, knowledge, and work ethic to best represent you on the show floor.

6. Reshape Your Promotions

In the last two years, social media has reshaped the marketing world. To what extent social media has taken hold in your target market will guide how much you need to shift your promotional activity into social media. You may find you can get the same results reaching out to show attendees via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn than you can with emails, directory ads, and post card mailers. You won´t know until you try.

As marketers, we are not living in the same world we had before the downturn. So you can´t go back to the same old trade show program you used to run.

Please share your ideas and thoughts on restarting a Trade Show Program below.

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